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Melody’s Echo Chamber is the name given to the work of Paris-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Melody Prochet. Possessing a penchant for wild-eyed psychedelia, homespun motorik rhythm and an effortless flair for the sort of melodic classicism redolent of chamber song, Prochet is at once both an aficionado of pop’s outer limits and off-kilter to its expectations.
With her smoky, sensual voice and romantic presence, Prochet embodies a distinctive kind of elegance and bold sense-of-self long associated with France’s more notable musical exports. But as much as her national identity runs through the fibre of the eleven tracks that make up Melody’s Echo Chamber, there’s worldliness at play too; a looking beyond the fringes of personal experience to trawl through Europe’s art pop lineage – kraut, space-rock, dream-pop, electronica – in a way that’s as much cinematic in its scope as it is musical.
The likes of Debussy and Spiritualized are seldom quoted in tandem when it comes to touch-points of an artist’s debut album but for Prochet, a classical music student of some twelve years, this sense of disparate influences makes a lot of sense. For all its blown-out boom and electronic wear-and-tear, a song like ‘Crystallized’ unfolds with a sweeping grace and poise that is deceptively complex, and the album is peppered with moments of melodic illumination that feel almost like movements in the way they frequently elevate the song up and away from the heavy, damaged break-beats and mesmeric bass loops that typically drive them.
The intriguing combination of more confrontational, roughshod instrumentation and stirring compositional scope present in Prochet’s work is in part attributable to the album’s origins. Predominantly recorded and mixed with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker in Perth and finished off solo in France, the collaboration, struck up after the two met on tour when Prochet was playing in a previous band, proved a perfect chemistry.
“I’ve been surrounded for many years by the idea of classicism as I studied viola and it’s all about formal and restrained music, and when I started recording my own songs I was kind of stifled by that restriction and tended to not be as extreme as I wanted to be in sound or structure,” explains Prochet. “I think at some point I had a click and I naturally ended up collaborating with someone with a Rock ‘n’ Roll background such as Kevin. We worked as kind of complementary opposites – he helped me destroy everything I’d done up to that point and then put it back together piece by piece, to sculpt it with the right balance of classicism but also the psychedelia and wildness I wanted.”
Inspired by Parker’s free-spirited approach and the unconventional provisions of his home studio (“we had to mic-up on piles of bricks in the backyard”), Prochet describes her process in Perth as a childlike, exploratory one; for a record so deeply textured and layered its genesis was surprisingly less a case of studious knob-twiddling and more of playful, wide-eyed instinct. “Some Time Alone, Alone’ is one of the songs I wrote in Perth when Kevin was on tour and I was on my own in his studio. He’d left these notes everywhere to explain how to use the gear but his room-mate had used it just before me in the morning and messed up all the instructions, so I was in there and I didn’t know how anything worked”, remembers Prochet. “So I basically just plugged into a pre-amp and played this really saturated guitar on top of my Yamaha drum machine in a way that felt natural. Of course, it was technically ‘ totally wrong’ but at the end we kept all of my guitars cause the sound was so special and uniquely textured that it wasn’t worth it try doing it again. So, in general, there was no real process, more a day-to-day sense of experiment.”
Leaving behind Parker and his riotously messy Perth home-studio, Prochet then travelled back to France, and isolation in her Grandparents’ beach house in the fittingly gorgeous climes of Cavalière, in order to add the beaming vocals that soar high over the record’s heady landscapes. “I needed the isolation for that part of the recording”, says Melody, “I’m so self-conscious singing in a room full of people so retreating to such a beautiful, quiet place really helped coax it out of me.”
The result of this process of “complementary opposites”, to use Prochet’s own phrase, is exemplified by “Endless Shore”, one of the first tracks from the record made available, a song that is wistful but totally commanding; cosmic but muscular, and as strange and singular as it is immediately arresting on a gut level. Likewise, lead single ‘I Follow You’, with its loose, laconic guitars and instantly memorable, resignedly romantic hook swings closest to out-and-out pop but still manages to retain a friction and vulnerability. Whether starting with a seemingly straightforward song-structure and then pushing its edges outwards or going the other way and making something dense and unlikely completely contagious, Prochet’s instinctive feel for inventive song-craft is relentless.
Fittingly for a record defined by its multiple identities, Melody’s Echo Chamber finds Prochet skipping between her native French and English with gleeful fluidity and uniformly moving results, such is the innately emotive quality of her voice. “Those songs were also the first time I ever sang in French”, says Prochet, “I never had wanted to before, it never felt natural – I’ve listened to so much English music, and you are able to sing more ridiculous things in English. I’ve always been a fan of French singers but I never really considered myself capable of living up to them. But when I was in the beach house by myself I just found myself coming out with these melodies in French almost without thinking. I found a way to write really simple, poetic, lyrics – almost child-like and it felt extremely natural. I think I was able to find the right balance.”